Fresh-brewed coffee, pastries and helping adults with disabilities is not what Colorado State University alumni Chelsi and Justin Wells thought they would be doing after graduation. As they celebrate their new ownership of Starry Night Espresso Café, they hope to partner with Stepping Stone Support Center to back a cause that is much bigger.
Chelsi, a 2013 human development and family studies graduate, and her brother Justin, a 2010 international studies graduate, never imagined opening a coffee shop, but knew that they wanted to help individuals with disabilities.
As former Young Life volunteers in Northern Colorado, they built many relationships with children with disabilities and their families, but also saw firsthand the different skills each child had.
“While building these relationships, we realized there was a lack of opportunities and programs for people with disabilities,” said Chelsi.
Although a coffee shop was not the original goal, once they knew they wanted to improve the lives of those they had worked with, moving towards how to help them was essential. As they considered multiple ideas, Chelsi became a part-time barista and fell in love with coffee.
Though the idea of being an entrepreneur started as a joke, it became tangible once Chelsi started discussing it with Justin. After a lengthy three-year planning process, they purchased Starry Night Espresso Café in April. Since this is a familiar coffee shop in Old Town Fort Collins, Chelsi and Justin wanted to keep the atmosphere that locals already love and admire. Although the name of the coffee shop is still Starry Night, they hope to transition to the name The Well Coffee Shop.
As they assumed the barista mindset and business owners’ mentality, they looked into programs that would allow adults with disabilities to work in their shop. They partnered with Stepping Stone, which is a prevocational training center that cooperates with businesses to help individuals with disabilities live a sustainable lifestyle. Chelsi and Justin are anxiously awaiting funding and hope to provide jobs for individuals as soon as possible.
“We knew that supporting this cause would be a long and hard journey, but worth every second,” said Chelsi. “We want to empower the people of Fort Collins to understand they can achieve whatever they want.”
International Studies is based in CSU’s College of Liberal Arts, and the Department of Human Development and Family Studies is in the College of Health and Human Sciences.